The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election
Republican Donald Trump vs. Democrat Hillary Clinton
The 2016 Presidential election has been one of the most interesting election cycles in recent history. At the beginning of the primary season, the Democrats offered two major candidates. One of the candidates, Hillary Clinton, was a longtime Democrat politician. A former Senator from New York, Secretary of State under President Barack Obama, and a former First Lady, Clinton was seen, by many, as the de facto nominee for the position. However, Senator Bernie Sanders, who spent most of his political career as an independent, performed strongly in the primaries, and continued his campaign even after was clear that he would not be able to gather enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination. Clinton’s commanding delegate lead makes her the presumptive Democratic candidate. At the beginning of the primary season, the Republicans offered a huge field of Presidential hopefuls. The top candidates in the Republican field changed several times and included non-politicians Ben Carson and Donald Trump, in addition to Ohio Governor John Kasich and Congressmen Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. A2 However, Trump pulled ahead of his rivals, and when it became clear that no other candidate was getting the same support as Trump, the other Republican candidates began to drop out of the race, making Trump the de-facto Republican nominee.
An election pitting Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton is one that promises to be interesting, and, most likely, very vicious. This is interesting because, until the current election season, Clinton and Trump were not rivals of any sort. They do not have a history of personal acrimony. For example, in addition to attending other social functions together, Clinton attended Trump’s most recent wedding. However, their political rivalry has quickly become acrimonious. Both candidates are openly critical about their opponent’s qualifications for the presidency. However, more alarming than any vitriol that either candidate can spew is the behavior of some of their supporters. There has been violence on the election trail. Most of this violence has occurred at Trump rallies, but there has been an underlying current of misogyny at some Democrat political rallies, as well. A faction of Bernie Sanders’ supporters has been very openly misogynistic towards those supporting Clinton’s presidency, and it is uncertain how these supporters will impact the election now that Sanders is no longer in serious contention for the Democratic nomination.
 Real Clear Politics. (2015). 2016 Republican Presidential Nomination. Retrieved June 30, 2016 from Real Clear Politics website: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/2016_republican_presidential_nomination-3823.html
First and foremost, it must be acknowledged that Hillary Clinton is a historic candidate; while there have been prior female candidates for Vice President, Clinton is the first female major party candidate for President. While Clinton’s candidacy is ground-breaking, her policies are very textbook Democrat and somewhat moderate. She is socially liberal, but takes a realistic stance on many economic policies, which place her to the right of many people in the Democrat Party. Her position on major issues is clear and has not changed substantially since she first became known on the American political scene as the First Lady of Arkansas. For example, she began advocating for common core education standards while First Lady of Arkansas. She has always been pro-choice, but in favor of reducing the number of abortions though birth control access, education, foster parenting, and adoption. She believes that climate change is real and supports efforts to reduce emissions, but is not opposed to oil exploration and drilling within the United States. Her most substantial policy change since emerging on the political scene probably has to do with the issue of gay marriage, and her changes reflect an overall change in American political and social thought. As First Lady of the United States, Clinton did not oppose anti-gay policies like the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, but she has changed her position to support full civil rights for LGBT people.
While Clinton was the favorite for the Democratic nomination, it would be incorrect to say that her nomination was a given. Senator Bernie Sanders ran a tough campaign against Clinton and garnered the support of many young Democrats, who appreciated his outsider stance and his very left-leaning politics. While some degraded these Sanders supporters as wanting a free ride, their disillusionment with the status quo reflects the fact that many young people are finding the traditional path to success simply is not working for them. Going to college and getting a steady job are no longer sufficient to be able to guarantee that people can be self-supporting, much less an assurance of a comfortable middle-class lifestyle, like it once was. Blue collar workers are hit even harder by the economic realities of stagnant minimum wage and a struggling middle class. Many of these Sanders supporters have pledged a “Bernie or Bust” position and have stated that they will not vote for Clinton. Some have even suggested that they will vote for Trump in protest of Clinton getting the nomination, though Trump and Sanders are ideological opposites and Clinton and Sanders have extremely similar campaign platforms. How these “Bernie or Bust” supporters will impact the election remains to be seen.
Donald Trump began his campaign as one of the most polarizing candidates from either party. Many people assumed that his brash attitude would result in his campaign crashing and burning. However, the more offensive and opinionated Trump acted, the greater the up swell of public support for his candidacy. While he never seemed to gain the full support of either the Republican Party or the majority of Republican voters, he did have enough appeal for a certain subgroup of voters to get people to turn out to the primaries to vote for him. Furthermore, no other candidate in the Republican Party was able to command the type of support that Trump was commanding, so that, while he never seemed to gather the support of more than half of his party, he was able to get much more support than any other candidate.
Trump’s policy positions are much more difficult to identify than Clinton’s. For many years, Trump identified as a Democrat and was considered very socially liberal. His own personal life, which includes numerous affairs, two divorces, and three marriages demonstrates a more socially liberal attitude. He was vocally pro-choice for years. Two of his wives have been immigrants, he outsources labor to other countries, and many of the employees at his properties are immigrants. As the head of several different companies, he has made the choice to declare bankruptcy in order to preserve profits. However, his political positions are in direct opposition to his personal life. He is running as a Christian, conservative, anti-immigrant candidate. His supporters seem to like that version of Trump, but who knows whether Trump’s views have really changed or whether he is simply pandering to a base of voters who will support those positions.
What is not unknown is the turmoil that Trump’s presumptive candidacy has caused in the Republican Party. Carroll Correll, a Virginia Republican National Congress delegate has filed suit to unbind Virginia delegates in order to avoid having to vote for Trump at the Republican Convention. There is talk that the Republicans will attempt to nominate another candidate for the Presidency at the convention. Several prominent Republicans, like pundits Mary Matalin and George Will, have left the Republican Party because of Trump’s presumptive nomination. Many other Republicans have stayed with the party, but have yet to endorse Trump as a candidate. For example, many members of George W. Bush’s administration have been vocal in their opposition of Trump as a candidate, and have indicated that they will vote for Clinton, instead, in the 2016 election. What is most interesting is that neither George W. Bush or his father George H.W. Bush will support Trump; while they have not made statements against Trump, they have both stated that they will refuse to comment on the 2016 election.
In fact, a growing number of Republicans are endorsing the “Never Trump” movement; while they retain their identification as Republicans, they are urging their fellow Republicans to vote for Clinton in the 2016 election because they fear the consequences of a Trump presidency. This movement really began in March of 2016, when it became clear that Trump would be the Republican nominee,  and has picked up steam since that time.
 Schleifer, T. (2016, June 24). RNC delegate files lawsuit in order to avoid voting for Trump. CNN Politics. Retrieved June 30, 2016 from: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/24/politics/rnc-delegate-lawsuit-donald-trump/
 Roth, Z. (2016, June 3). George W. Bush administration is split over Donald Trump. MSNBC. Retrieved June 30, 2016 from: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/george-w-bush-administration-split-over-donald-trump
 MSNBC Staff. (2016, March 2). Meet the Republicans speaking out against Trump. MSNBC. Retrieved June 30, 2016 from: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/meet-the-republicans-speaking-out-against-trump
Currently, polls and forecasters suggest that Clinton not only has a strong lead over Trump, but that her lead is growing. These polls reinforce forecasters who suggest that, while not inevitable, a Clinton victory is extremely likely in 2016. However, several events in recent political history suggest that it would be unwise not to consider Trump as a viable Presidential candidate. First, Trump’s own campaign has shown that he is a surprisingly resilient candidate who is virtually attack-proof; his supporters simply do not care if Trump is touched by scandal or if his positions are in marked contrast to his own life or prior statements. Second, Trump seems to gain support when he makes the type of offensive comments that normally have candidates issuing apologies as they watch their campaigns sputter and die. Third, the pro-Brexit referendum vote in the United Kingdom had a similar support base as Trump’s candidacy in the United States. It was assumed that the referendum would fail, but it passed instead. Therefore, it is clear that, regardless of which candidate a person supports, getting out to vote in November will be even more critical than in other election years.
Real Clear Politics. (2015). 2016 Republican Presidential Nomination. Retrieved June 30, 2016 from Real Clear Politics website: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/2016_republican_presidential_nomination-3823.html
Schleifer, T. (2016, June 24). RNC delegate files lawsuit in order to avoid voting for Trump. CNN Politics. Retrieved June 30, 2016 from: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/24/politics/rnc-delegate-lawsuit-donald-trump/